A convoy of hundreds of Americans has arrived in a port city in eastern Sudan, the State Department said, in the first U.S.-led evacuation effort of private U.S. citizens since deadly fighting erupted in the country two weeks ago.
Buses carrying 300 people reached Port Sudan on Saturday after leaving the capital of Khartoum late Friday.
The group of mostly Americans — along with some Germans, Norwegians and local staff — were driven on seven buses contracted by the U.S. and monitored by armed drones on the journey, a Pentagon official told NPR. The U.S. government contracted 16 buses total and will use the remaining buses if a second convoy is needed.
Conflict between rival generals from the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces has killed more than 500 people and injured more than 4,000 others since fighting broke out on April 15. Bombings and gun battles have rattled Khartoum, devastating buildings in residential neighborhoods.
The RSF assisted the convoy with three vehicles to help get the buses safely through checkpoints, according to a Pentagon official.
Some 16,000 Americans had been registered in Sudan before the convoy’s departure. Families of trapped Americans in Sudan have criticized the U.S. for initially ruling out a U.S.-run evacuation, The Associated Press reported.
The U.S. is among several countries to have closed their embassies and evacuated their staff and families.
From Port Sudan, the Americans can cross the Red Sea to a port in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement.
“The U.S. government has taken extensive efforts to contact U.S. citizens in Sudan and enable the departure of those who wished to leave,” the statement read. “We messaged every U.S. citizen in Sudan who communicated with us during the crisis and provided specific instructions about joining this convoy to those who were interested in departing via the land route. We encourage U.S. citizens who want to leave Sudan but chose not to participate in this convoy to contact the Department of State using the crisis intake form on our website.”
The U.S. repeated its warning to Americans not to travel to Sudan.
Source : NPR